2020: Brave New World Of Allotment Gardening

Good essay over at Hartley Botanic (since 1938!) by John Walker, imagining a Modified New World in 2020. By then, the genetically modified seed companies have won the battle, and if you dare to plant anything that is not approved by the GM thought police, you are toast, or relegated to the

...nether regions of allotment fields, with the prime plots being given to those ordering PerfectPlot Seeds. It was never voiced, but the deal was either relocate or get out. We saw that coming, too; one of the most pernicious ‘big society’ outcomes was that multinational seed companies, dressed up as our familiar favourites, offered to fund the upkeep of allotment sites. When a few of us bothered to check the small print and found that their support was dependent on plotholders buying only genetically modified, glyphosate-resistant PerfectPlot Seeds, we knew there was trouble ahead.

For those of us who think doing a little bit of farming on the side is a fun way to pass the time, here is a warning:

In this brave new gardening world, all PerfectPlot varieties are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate weedkiller – meaning that the prags can drench their pristine plots in the stuff to their hearts’ content (although with crude oil prices rocketing, it isn’t cheap). There are no worries about pests or diseases either; gene-popping has seen them off. That bird and beneficial insect populations are crashing holds no sway with BeyondNature: ‘Our products have made growing your own easier, more consistent and more reliable than ever before.’ Oh, and you’re not allowed to save any seeds from them (you automatically enter into this dark, internationally-binding legal covenant upon purchase of the packet).

But no one thought to mention any of this to the few bees we still have left. They don’t have a PVD handy when they’re out visiting flowers. If they had, perhaps they’d have known not to carry pollen from the flowers of PerfectPlot mangetout pea ‘Pod Perfect Strain 8.2™’ down to those of my golden-podded mangetout, which have been saved in my family for three generations. They had no name, no trademark, no owner, just a custodian – until now. As soon as the first grains of BeyondNature-engineered pollen were carried inside my pea flowers, they were gone. I didn’t own the patented ‘tracker’ gene carried in the pollen, but it was my responsibility to make sure it didn’t reach or pollinate my pea plants.

That’s why I’m a bleeper. It’s why my plot has just been surgically cordoned off, and why our allotment monitor has just handed me notice to quit, with immediate effect. It’s why all my crops are now subject to a Patent Restraint Order and are in the custody of BeyondNature; why I face a court appearance, possibly a hefty fine, and why I’ll get a lifelong entry on the National Patent Violation Register (Allotments).

Some of us always knew that pushing nature beyond its limits would come at a very high price.

Text and images © John Walker

Read the entire essay:
Modified New World

My honest opinion is that we all should learn how to farm, even on a balcony, in a couple of pots by the kitchen window, out in an abandoned yard. We should figure out the simplest things, like how to grow potatoes in a bucket, or just bake bread once a week, and confidently make a delicious pizza from scratch. In Japan, make tofu, or miso, or try to learn how to make soba or udon. Get good at it!

I have been following the debate about genetically modified (GM) foods for over 15 years, making lectures and presentations at large meetings, representing Consumers International at FAO/WHO conferences, getting angry at the Seattle WTO debacle in 1999, asking the US secretary of agriculture when the US would stop delaying its organic rules at a meeting of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue meeting at Dupont Circle in Washington DC, urging Franz Fishler, the EU farm commissioner in Brussels to never allow growth hormones in European cattle production... You can do a lot if you just speak up, when you get the chance.

TACD resolution about GMOs
TACD resolution about Organic Foods (pdf)

Once, in Brussels, I made a speech about how bad it was that large chemical corporations were trying to take control of the seeds we need to grow grains and vegetables. An elderly British gentleman in the audience took the microphone, to ask a question. He said, "My generation fought WW2 against fascism and now, I see how it is coming back again, rearing its ugly head, to try to control everything from the seeds we need to grow food..."

If you control food production, you can control the world.

Over at UNU, my friend Raquel Moreno-Peñaranda notes that allotment gardening is taking off in Japan:

Increased interest of urban residents in agriculture — In recent years, interest in agriculture has grown significantly among Japanese urban dwellers; according to a recent study by MAFF, over 85% of Tokyo residents would like their city to have farmland in order to secure access to fresh foods and green space. The systems Taiken Nouen, by which people participate in different activities with actual farmers, and Shimin Nouen, or allotment gardens, are the two most popular systems of citizens’ involvement in urban agriculture in Japan. While the number of allotment gardens in rural areas remained constant over the last decade, in urban areas it increased by 67%. According to 2010 MAFF data, applications were 30% higher than the number of existing gardens nationwide. In some highly industrialized cities, such as Kawasaki and Nagoya, demand for gardens surpassed supply by over 300%.

UNU: Japan’s urban agriculture: cultivating sustainability and well-being


Tom O said…
Isn't 'water' going to be the next controllable/ownable thing-commodity??

I am assuming the above account of dirty tactics are with regard to a US based allotment and set of 'rules'?

On our outer London based allotment I, at present, couldn't imagine this going on - everything is quite traditional as such, we get regular supplies of manure which are always taken up (of course our plot is basically the furthest one away to transport the valuable stuff, but that makes for good exercise!) and as far as I am aware this no actual requirement either way with chemicals etc as such but I have a feeling the whole site is indeed organic. Our plot certainly is and work for another year has just got under way. However, since we put a lot of the basic groundwork in last year - essentially the first one - and continually kept on top of the weeds all the time this year will be a lot easier in terms '. I have heard directly from Martin about this very nasty business that if a GMO gene gets into 'your' plants thats it, they own it per se. Ridiculous but, obv, 'legal'. How the world turns.
Martin J Frid said…
Water is indeed the next big resource issue. Japan has a lot of it (but no oil). I am hopeful that we can farm here in the future, while other regions may face water shortages in addition to oil shortages.
Martin, In the US the persecution of small farmers has deepened: http://farmageddonmovie.com/

At the same time, the movement to support small farmers and home gardeners is growing.
Martin J Frid said…
Tom, thanks, water indeed is a huge issue. I think we are OK here in the hills where I live, but others may be experiencing shortages. That is great about your field in north London, best of luck.

TTT, I'm so glad to hear that more people are supporting small farmers where you live. What if we all started farming, on any kind of scale, that would make a huge difference!

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